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U.S. Reiterates That It Will Not Become Involved for the Present in Mediating Lebanon Situation

The Reagan Administration reiterated today that it has no intention of becoming involved for the present in mediation or negatiations on Lebanon despite the public desire of the Israeli government that it do so.

The State Department spokesman, Alan Romberg, noted that Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, is in the Mideast and it was “logical” that Lebanon would be discussed when Murphy visits the various capitals. Both Murphy and Michael Armacost, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, were in Saudi Arabia today.

The Israeli Cabinet announced a policy decision yesterday that urges the United States to act as mediator to achieve a troop withdrawal from south Lebanon, coupled with guarantees preventing Syria from moving its forces into the areas vacated by Israel and terrorists from infiltrating from Syrian-controlled territory toward Israel.

Romberg said the United States still wants a complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon but he repeated the Administration position that before that the United States will agree again to act as a mediator, Israel, Syria and Lebanon must demonstrate a “narrowing of the substantial differences that now exist” and a willingness to engage in a “practical problem-solving approach.”

He refused to comment on what the issues were that were dividing the three countries or to “weigh” which country was more responsible for the division.

Meanwhile, Romberg said the United States “deplored” the rocket attack on an Arab bus yesterday. He stressed that the Israeli government indicated that it would move “swiftly to do whatever it can to bring those responsible to justice.”

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